The Cooperative Research Centres Association is a not-for-profit organisation operating to promote the pursuit of science, particularly through the Australian Government’s CRC Program.

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NCRISIS illustrates the need for Strategy‏

Commentary from Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association

Christopher Pyne’s backdown on linking the funding of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme to the university reform legislation has caused a major sigh of relief in the research sector. But the relief is currently only for 12 months and should never have occurred in the first place.

NCRIS is a great scheme. Australia is too small a place for every State or every research organisation to have the latest and greatest bit of “kit”. Before NCRIS, that was the way we tended to fund things. The then Major National Research Facilities program was much more competitive and cut-throat. There were some good examples of sharing facilities but not many. NCRIS changed things. Introduced by the Howard Government, the scheme allowed for staffing to run the infrastructure as well as the building and machines themselves. More importantly, NCRIS facilities were developed following extensive consultations in their sector with business plans and governance put in place to maximise their use and impact.

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Still the “Clever Country”?

Yesterday morning in Canberra, the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb AC launched a report from Professionals Australia called “Still the Clever Country?”

Professional Australia has surveyed its members and found that their top concerns about science are the need for government funding and the need for a more strategic and sustainable approach.

Professor Chubb noted significant progress towards a more strategic approach to Australia’s science. He indicated that the Commonwealth Science Council met in late 2014 and had now tasked him and his office to come back to the Council turning the current ideas and proposals into actions.

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DibbsBarker CRC Workshops – 25 May 2015, Novotel, Canberra

Rachel Sciascia, Special Counsel and Kerrin Anderson, Consultant of DibbsBarker will run two workshops in Canberra to coincide with the CRC Association Conference. Rachel and Kerrin are the co-authors of the CRC Governance Guide commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Tertiary Education (now the Department of Industry and Science).

In the morning Rachel and Kerrin will cover issues in establishing a CRC, in which they will cover the Commonwealth agreement, structuring your CRC, CRC governance, IP ownership, IP utilisation and planning an exit.

The afternoon session will be dedicated to winding up a CRC. This session will cover planning the exit, transitioning to ongoing centres, winding up, the winding up deed and winding up the entities.

You can register for either of both sessions.
Establishment session will run from 9am – 12pm
Winding up session will run from 1pm – 3:30pm.

Registration is $50 each per session or $80 each for both sessions. Email Rachel Sciascia on to register.

Big step forward in Industry Growth Centres

Industry and Science Minister, Ian Macfarlane, has named the Chairs of three of the five proposed Industry Growth Centres and said he expects the Centres to be up and running by the middle of the year. Minister Macfarlane also named the members of the independent Advisory Committee for the government’s $188.5 million Growth Centres initiative. The Chairs of the Growth Centres are:

Mr Andrew Stevens, chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre;
Ms Elizabeth Lewis-Gray, chair of the Mining Equipment, Technology and Sevices Growth Centre and
Mr Peter Schutz, chair of the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre.

The remaining two appointments (for the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Growth Centre and the Oil, Gas and Energy Growth Centre) will be named shortly. The Advisory Committee for the Growth Centres Initiative is Mr John Grill AO (Chair), Ms Catherine Livingstone AO, Dr Andrew Liveris AO and Ms Carolyn Hewson AO. Mr Macfarlane’s announcement can be found here.

Several weeks ago, Minister Macfarlane assured Australian research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) to 2020 with the announcement that the Australian Government would provide $25 million over five years to the CO2CRC Otway Project and related activities. Welcoming the funding announcement, CO2CRC’s new chief executive officer, Tania Constable, commended the Australian Government for supporting CCS as an essential component in a portfolio of low- and zero-carbon emissions technologies required to tackle climate change.

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Registration Now Open !

Registrations are now open for the 2015 CRC Association Conference, The Australia 2040 Forum.

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Cooperative Research Centres Program. To celebrate this milestone, we are holding our annual conference in Canberra from 25-27 May 2015.

The Australia 2040 Forum will be held on 26 May in Australian Parliament House. We will look back 25 years over the achievements of Cooperative Research Centres and 25 years into the future, examining the challenges and opportunities for Australia in the next quarter century. A showcase of CRC achievements and the Excellence in Innovation Awards will be held in the Great Hall that evening. A series of important workshops will be held on the 27th.

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Dr Tony Peacock and Alex Sloan talk to Dr Rodger Campbell and Professor Richard Hillis on 666 ABC.

 Flying start for CRCs in 2015

The CRC for Deep Exploration Technologies yesterday announced a major commercialisation outcome, AutoSonde, with industry partner Boart Longyear, leading global supplier of drilling services, equipment and performance tooling.

The AutoSonde technology enables the collection or geophysical data while a hole is being drilled instead of the current method of having a specialist crew carry out the process once the drill rig has left, which adds significant time, cost and risk to the process.

AusScan, a NIRS (near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) technology developed by the Pork CRC for  rapidly determining the effective energy value for grains (wheat, barley, triticale and sorghum –working on corn) plus many other nutrients including amino acid levels, is now being globalised through a recent partnership with Aunir.

This technology will allow growers to maximise the efficiency with which grains are utilised and provides for more consistent animal performance.

Catapult Group International Ltd (Catapult Sports) commercialised research from the CRC for MicroTechnology and is now used by over 350 sports teams around the world to track and monitor their athletes. The Asia Cup winning Socceroos use the technology. In December the company had a successful Initial Public Offering with a market capitalisation of $66 million.

Late last year the Cell Therapy Manufacturing CRC inked a key intellectual property deal with industry partner Terumo BCT. Through the deal Terumo has supplied a new bioreactor which will allow growing cells on a larger scale and test processes working on cell growth.

If this is any indication how the rest of the year will play out, CRCs are in for another fantastic year.

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Science Meets Policymakers

Science & Technology Australia, in partnership Asia and the Pacific Policy Society at Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, invites registrations for a one-day conference to enable policymakers and scientists to achieve better public policy outcomes.

Science meets Policymakers will bring together researchers from a range of disciplines and policymakers from various government departments to examine the intersection between the evidence base and policy development.

Note: Registration for Science meets Policymakers (not to be confused with Science meets Parliament in late March 2015) is open to all and there are no restrictions on the number of registrations from individual organisations.

Participants in the event will include policymakers, parliamentarians, academics, practising scientists, and representatives from scientific societies and industries employing scientists.

Confirmed speakers and session chairs include:

·      Dr Michael Keating AC, FASSA, FIPAA
·      Professor Brian Schmidt AC
·      Professor Veronica Taylor
·      Professor Ian Chubb AC
·      Professor Gabriele Bammer
·      Professor Hugh White AO
·      Professor Tom Kompas
·      Professor Emily Banks
·      Professor Bruce Chapman
·      Professor Aidan Byrne
·      Rona Mellor PSM
·      Anne-Marie Lansdown

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An Important Year Ahead For Australian Innovation

Consolidating policy directions, renewed leadership and aspirations and even a low Australian dollar could mean we look back on 2015 as a very positive year in Australian innovation, writes Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association.

This year will see in a lot of changes in the Australian innovation scene. It isn’t a major review year like 2008 or 2002 but if you look at the various issues stacked up, there is the potential for 2015 to be the most important year in a decade or two. We are due to see a number of policy issues come together that will give the framework for much of the innovation scene over the next few years. Rarely have we had a year where so many leaders will be new and looking to make their mark. Finally, the reaction of the business world during 2015 will be critical to our future performance.

Innovation policy directions

There isn’t much doubt about how Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane (with “Science” now formally part of his title) views the direction of science and innovation policy. He is pretty plain spoken and he has consistently called for closer links between science and industry. He tells industry they need to step up at least as much as he says scientists need to focus more on collaboration with industry (although it never seems to get the same media coverage). He has repeatedly called Australia’s level of science-industry collaboration “appalling”, citing the same OECD figures Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has kept drawing our attention to.

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No impact of MYEFO on the Cooperative Research Centres Programme

The Government handed down the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) yesterday, overshadowed by the events that were unfolding in Sydney. All Government expenditure remains under considerable pressure, but changes in the Industry portfolio were relatively small.

Overall, the Industry portfolio’s expenditure will be reduced by almost $50 million in 2014-15 and about $200 million over the forward estimates. The biggest changes – both about $70 million over the forward estimates – are to the government’s administration of the National Training System and to payments to apprentices under the Adult Australia Apprentice scheme, which will cease.

The Industry Skills Fund, part of the recently announced Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda has received about $42 million. Another feature of that policy, the Industry Growth Centres, have had their budget adjusted to put more expenditure later in the forward estimates. But Departmental officials advise this will not affect their starting dates.

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Space Environment Management CRC Lifts Off

The Minister for Industry, the Hon. Ian Macfarlane, launched the CRC for Space Environment Management yesterday at Australian Parliament House to a terrific response.

The CRC, based at Mt Stromlo in the Australian Capital Territory, was one of the CRCs funded in Round 16 and will deal with the growing problem caused by space debris.

Dr. Ben Greene, the Chief Executive Officer of the CRC said, “There are more than 300,000 items of debris orbiting the earth. There is so much debris that it is colliding with itself, and creating more debris. A catastrophic avalanche of collisions which could quickly destroy all orbiting satellites is now possible.”

“Our initial aim is to reduce the rate of debris proliferation caused by new collisions, and then to remove debris using ground-based lasers. Preliminary research has been performed by the individual CRC participants over the past decade, and we will now work together in the CRC to drive the program forward,” Dr Greene said.

The launch also saw the official signing of the partnership between the CRC and the Japanese Institute for Information and Communications Technology (NICT), one of the CRCs essential participants. Dr. Fumihiko Tomita, Vice President and Chief Research & Strategy Officer of NICT, personally travelled to Australia for the signing. Other participants include Lockheed Martin, Optus, EOS Space Systems,RMIT University and the Australian National University.

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Awards for Excellence in Innovation 2015

Applications are now open for the 2015 Awards for Excellence in Innovation.

This year we received an impressive spread of applications at the 2014 Awards, ranging from the RamSelect Training Program from the Sheep CRC, to the Polycrystalline Diamond Tool from the Advanced Manufacturing CRC.

The applications are a testament to the diversity and calibre of work CRCs are currently doing and we expect 2015 to be no exception.

In the past the Awards have been split into two categories: outreach and innovation, this year the criteria is solely impact.

Applications are open to all CRC Association members.

Click here for more details and to register.

CRC Review Update

No matter what happens in the CRC Review, no one will accuse reviewer David Miles of taking it easy.

Last week, Mr Miles was on the road with the CRC programme staff in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane for open forums. On Friday, Mr Miles met with University Australia’s gathering of Deputy Vice Chancellors for Research. This week, Mr Miles is in Canberra with an open forum and separate meetings with the CRC Committee and several directors of the CRC Association.The closing date for submissions is 11 November.

At each forum Mr Miles has made several points: he doesn’t want to read “War and Peace”; he is interested in your “best points” on the CRC programme; and he isn’t personally wedded to the terms of reference. He is more interested in your views – you don’t need to adhere to the Terms of Reference. In other words, he is genuinely interested in your views about CRCs and how they might be improved.

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Alex Sloan and Tony Peacock Chat With Dr Elizabeth Beach, CRC Researcher at the National Acoustics Laboratories on 666 Afternoons

CRC Programme Review Discussion Paper now Available

The CRC Programme Review Discussion Paper has just been released and is available on the review website. Click here

Responses to the discussion paper can be submitted online via the Department of Industry’s consultation hub and are due by 4pm Tuesday 11 November 2014.

Information sessions

Information sessions are being conducted by the Department of Industry and the review leader, Mr David Miles AM next week in Adelaide 27/10, Melbourne 28/10, Sydney 29/10 and Brisbane 30/10. Please note places are limited to a maximum of two people from each organisation.

This is an opportunity for stakeholders to clarify the discussion questions, provide feedback on particular aspects of the CRC programme and to hear from other stakeholders.

Further information

Further details about the venue and details on how to register to attend can also be found on the review website. For any other questions, please email the review secretariat:

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Louise Maher chats with Associate Professor Elizabeth Scarr on 666 Afternoons

Alex Sloan chats with Tony Peacock & Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist On 666 Afternoons